We’ve Always Been at War With Yemen
As Congress and the American people are finally waking up to Mr. Nobel Peace Prize’s illegal presidential war in Libya, a nation that never posed a threat to the United States—and as the Bush-Obama wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to fatigue the nation and, in many cases, bore a complacent media—we find ourselves witnessing yet another war that seems to have just crept up out of the blue. Obama has been bombing Yemen for some time now, but it appears that the belligerence will be kicked up a notch, that the relationship status of the U.S. toward that country will be upgraded from “hostile and it’s complicated” to “I think we’re in all out war now.” The New York Times reports:
Central Intelligence Agency is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones, an American official said Tuesday.
The construction of the base is a sign that the Obama administration is planning an extended war in Yemen against an affiliate of Al Qaeda that has repeatedly tried to carry out terrorist plots against the United States
Some wonder how this happened all of a sudden. Well, much of it has to do with fulfilling Obama’s goal of assassinating U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki —an aspiration he has taken on without anything resembling due process, judicial oversight, or congressional approval. Awlaki is allegedly associated with al-Qaeda (as are some of the key rebels the U.S. has sided with in Libya), but most conspicuously, the American government has charged that this cleric has delivered sermons harshly critical of U.S. foreign policy, sermons attended by some of the 9/11 terrorists and the Fort Hood killer. Did his words incite violence? Even if so, such speeches are only considered criminal under U.S. legal traditions in very, very narrow circumstances, at which point the U.S. government, to follow its own constitutional limits, would have to observe minimal Bill of Rights protections before doing anything to him, rather than just summarily executing him. According to the Yemeni government, 130 have been killed in U.S. drone attacks in the last month, some of them civilians—collateral damage in yet another illicit U.S. military/CIA operation.
But, many will respond, people in Yemen started it! Wasn’t Yemen implicated in the (foiled) shoebomber plot of Christmas 2009? In fact, history didn’t begin then, either. Eight days before that terror plot fizzled, the U.S. bombed Yemen, using cluster bombs (those weapons that are so evil when Gaddafi uses them but which the U.S. government has long embraced in its wars), killing dozens of civilians, including 21 children. At the time, this was falsely reported as a bombing conducted by Yemeni security forces, as the Yemeni and American governments agreed to deceive their populations about who was behind them. A month later Obama lied, saying he had no intention of sending U.S. troops there, when some were already there.
There is, despite all these details, a more important moral principle at play, one that is always ignored. While there may be monstrous people in Yemen plotting deeds of evil against innocent people, this cannot possibly justify the type of lawless and directionless war that has become so common in American diplomacy and certainly since 9/11. Have bad organizations in the world planned acts of immorality against innocent Americans to manipulate their government? Surely. But so too have U.S. officials planned acts of immorality against innocents abroad so as to manipulate foreign governments. The sanctions on the Iraqi people throughout the 1990s, which U.S. politicians deliberately engineered with the express purpose of killing many thousands of Iraqi civilians so as to undermine their state, serve as one stark example. It was partly in response to this deliberate killing of innocent Iraqis that al-Qaeda launched its terrorist attacks against Americans, particularly on 9/11. If Osama bin Laden was wrong to kill innocent Americans in response to the deaths of innocent Iraqis—and surely he was—the U.S. is no less wrong to commit acts that will predictably kill innocent foreigners by the dozens, hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands. The evils of a government or terrorist group can never justify killing innocents who happen to inhabit the same country. The principal argument against all these American wars is moral: It is simply mass murder for the government to bomb children, for whatever purpose. The U.S. government is a terrorist state, and so long Americans ignore this reality, our freedom will be but a dream.